Grant awarded to South Texas Equality Project

HARLINGEN — It wasn’t easy.

When Oscar Espiricueta told his classmates in San Juan he was gay, he experienced the typical backlash.

“I was called names by people in the hallways,” said Espiricueta, 20, who is now studying public health at Brown University.

He had few resources to help him through this difficult time.

“There wasn’t a lot of help for people who were being bullied like that,” he said. “I didn’t really know other people who were older than me, who were successful and had come out.”

A $10,000 state grant to the South Texas Equality Project is aimed to alleviate that. The grant from the Texas Pride Impact Funds will be used to hire more staff to help raise money and get sponsors for Pride in the Park.

The annual event gives people in the LGBT community a place to gather each summer and connect with each other. The event includes a broad range of entertainment and educational opportunities. Such events can help alleviate the isolation some people in the LGBT community experience.

“I think down here it makes a difference between youth and adults feeling alone and feeling like they belong to a community that is diverse, that’s loving, that’s respected,” said Oscar Lopez, who was president of STEP when it received the grant.

“That can make the difference between an attempted suicide, other kids bullying you at school, between a professional getting fired and not knowing where to turn to for help,” Lopez said. “It can mean a lot.”

About the project

The South Texas Equality Project is a network of more than 50 organizations and business. The purpose of the project is to unite local businesses, faith-based organizations, institutions and individuals who share the common goal of supporting, nurturing and celebrating the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, and others (LGBTQIA+) community and any other purpose valid under law.